On projections, brick and mortar and fuzzy math

Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD), with a 2018 graduating class of just 57, is wrong to ask voters to build it a new campus via the $38M Bond Measure EE.

BUSD cannot afford to operate its existing campuses scattered from Oceanside to Pala. After running deficits for over seven years, California issued BUSD a “qualified certification” stating BUSD “may not meet its financial obligations for fiscal year 2017–18 or 2018–19”.  

District-wide, BUSD has 124 classrooms (including a new state-of-the-art high school with two expensively-outfitted laboratories). 2,500 are enrolled with 2,300 students on campus daily. At 25-27 students/classroom, BUSD’s 124 classrooms can accommodate 3,100-3,348 students.

There is no capacity crisis at BUSD, just an inefficient use of space and taxpayer dollars.

While BUSD attempts to ignore reality, voters should not. Among others, the Republican Party of San Diego County and the Fallbrook Democratic Club both recommend voting NO on Measure EE.

In an attempt to justify its folly, BUSD is using overly aggressive enrollment projections but we’ve seen wild projections before. In 2005 the Village News reported on a study predicting a doubling of enrollment at Fallbrook Union High School (FUHS) from 3,000 to 6,000 by 2025 (“Fallbrook High School has ambitious plans to accommodate growing enrollment”). At the time, FUHS was pushing taxpayers to support a second campus to open in 2008. This high school was to be built on the exact same parcel BUSD wants to build on via Measure EE. FUHS’s lost similar ballot measure four times and the predictions were completely wrong. FUHS’s enrollment fell to 2,071 students by 2015 and hovers around 2,000 today, a 30% decline. 

In 2014, BUSD predicted its enrollment would double from 2,500 students to 5,000 by 2020, with the proposed Lilac Hills Ranch mega-development contributing fully half of the projected increase. (Lilac Hills Ranch’s 1,700 housing units would be on open space zoned for 110 homes located within the Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District but BUSD offered to move its boundaries and take all the students.) After losing at the ballot box (2016’s Measure B), Lilac Hills Ranch stalled but other developments were built. However, even after expanding its programs from K-8 to K-12 and opening the doors to a brand new state-of-the-art high school in 2016, BUSD’s enrollment didn’t budge. It remains at about 2,500 students today.

BUSD now predicts 709 new units will generate 530 students District-wide (21% increase) of which 110 will choose BUSD’s high school (31% increase) in just one to five years. These are truly aggressive numbers. For comparison, Poway, North County San Diego’s fastest growing District, experienced only a 10% increase over a decade. 

Taxpayers have built (and maintain) 32 public high schools in the area surrounding Bonsall Unified School District. Another 15 private high schools, along with home schooling and new digital learning options, compete to serve the varied needs of the region’s children. 

There are 7,798 housing units within the Bonsall Unified School District. A 10% increase (about 780 housing units) would generate a corresponding 10% increase in the students enrolled in BUSD’s programs (250 including 35 in high school). A 20% increase in housing units (1,560) would generate about 500 students with 70 in high school, certainly not enough to support building a large new high school and certainly not in Fallbrook on a site the voters have rejected five times. Measure EE is Attempt #6 for this site. 

BUSD’s developer-generated projections are clearly overly aggressive and so are its budget projections. BUSD’s 2018-2019 budget overestimated revenue by $850,000 on 100 students who never materialized.  Without major cuts, this puts BUSD on track for another year of deficit spending. 

Today’s reality is smaller families started later in life. As a result, California predicts schools are entering a long-term declining enrollment trend. While its projections are overstated, BUSD’s actual enrollment figures already reflect this shift with substantial declines at the elementary school level for the 2018-2019 school year. 

Beware ballot measures for new schools mega-developers want to offer, with little cost to them, their potential clients. These campaigns commonly use fuzzy math in an attempt to convince voters to accept additional taxes to build and maintain unnecessary brick and mortar.

Community advocate Teresa Platt states, “Fuzzy math has no place in education or infrastructure. For the BUSD Board, I am voting for Dr. Sylvia Tucker and Roger Merchat ONLY, and voting NO on Measure EE.”

Thank you to everyone at the SaveGirdValley.com meeting at the Fallbrook Library!

SEPT 19, 2018: A big thank you to our speakers and supporters, to all who attended the SaveGirdValley.com meeting at the Library on September 18. It was a terrific evening, standing room only! We are sharing the PowerPoint Presentation we used at the meeting. If you open it in slideshow mode, the links will work for you. We hope you find the info useful. 

Speakers included:

  • Monserate Winery‘s Jade Work who updated us on what’s going on with his family’s 116 acres located in the heart of Gird Valley. He shared some great renderings. See them in the PowerPoint Presentation
  • James Gordon spoke on the very strong Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD)/Lilac Hills Ranch connection and how mega developers are using school districts to advance their sprawl agenda. 
  • Mark Jackson shared details on the SaveOurCountryside.org March 2020 ballot measure.
  • U.S. Marine and Gird Valley neighbor Julian Torres spoke on getting involved in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)/Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. You can too! See his letter and more here!
  • Environmental attorney Kevin Johnson gave additional detail on on the CEQA/EIR process. BUSD has announced it will release its DRAFT EIR for public comment about mid-October. We’re asking for an extended public comment period (generally 45 days) so the community can read and comment on this document, expected to be over 1,000 pages. We can only hope!
  • Radio host and community advocate Carl DeMaio spoke on the growing coalition Against Measure EE and BUSD’s egregious financial mismanagement. For this reason, Carl is recommending a NO on Measure EE vote. Carl used this BUSD slide to illustrate the severe financial problems at BUSD: 


  • Teresa Platt and Brad Jordan of SaveGirdValley.com shared their thoughts on the  Challenges Facing Gird Valley. The PowerPoint Presentation they used included great detail on the huge school proposed for the southern end of Gird Valley. Key takeaways: BUSD opened the doors on a brand new state-of-the-art high school in the Fall of 2016 but now wants to build another one even though its 2018 graduating class consisted of just 57 students.  We learned there are 7,798 housing units in the District which is ringed by 32 public and 15 private high schools. Those 7,798 units generate about 2,500 school children (K-12) enrolled at BUSD with about 2,300 in attendance daily. They are housed in 124 classrooms on four campuses (Sullivan Middle/High School), Bonsall Elementary, Bonsall West Elementary and Vivian Banks Charter School on the Pala Reservation. Should growth trigger more students, let’s do the math. Adding 10% more housing units in the District, about 800 units,  will generate about 250 more students enrolled District-wide (34 of those in high school). BUSD’s projections are overstated. Combine this with the fact that California is facing a long term declining trend in enrollment and building more brick and mortar in the digital era is just another risky bet.
  • Measure EE this November will be Attempt #6 to pass a bond to build a high school in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley. Why is BUSD ignoring the voters? To get involved with the official key campaign committee, contact the volunteers at NOonMeasureEE.com 
  • As for school Board candidates, we are circulating a Questionnaire to the candidates now and will post their responses soon. Stay tuned! 

Again, it was an amazing night!!! Thank you to all our volunteers, supporters and speakers, all those who made it possible. 

Here is the PowerPoint Presentation we used at the meeting. 

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Standing room only at the SaveGirdValley.com meeting. Photo: Tom Frew


Candidates Questionnaire

2018 Election: Vetting the candidates running for the Bonsall Unified School District’s Board of Trustees

Originally published October 2, 2018. Updated October 20, 2018

NOTE: The Village News published information on each candidate in its October 14 issue. Dr. Sylvia Tucker stated she was Neutral on EE and critical of the proposed high school designs. Dr. Coen publicly attacked her position and endorsed her opponent Larissa Anderson. 

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 12.20.23 AMFour seats out of five on the Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) Board are up for election in 2018. In early September SaveGirdValley.com sent out a Questionnaire to all eight candidates running for the BUSD Board. Here are the results as of September October 2, 2018: 

  • Three candidates completed the full Questionnaire. Two candidates completed it fully and in a timely manner, returning it in early September: Roger Merchat and Dr. Sylvia Tucker. Brian Olson provided his answers on October 1. 
  • One candidate partially completed the Questionnaire: Michael Gaddis provided a statement, then replied to some of the questions on October 2. 
  • One candidate provided only a statement: Larissa Anderson.
  • One candidate promised to answer the questions but never did: Eric Ortega. 
  • Two candidates did not respond to multiple emails: incumbents Timothy Coen and Lou Riddle. 
  • We appreciate the candidates who are transparent and responsive to the voters! 

Candidates for BUSD Board, 2016 November 2018 election (incumbents in red). 

4 year term, 3 seats, 6 candidates:.
Timothy Coen, doctor: No response to multiple emails.
Michael Gaddis, attorney/broker:  After multiple emails, we received a statement from Mr. Gaddis, followed by a partially completed Questionnaire on October 2. 
Roger Merchat,
engineer: Questionnaire is here for your review.
Brian Olson, business owner: Questionnaire is here for your review.
Eric Ortega,
appointed board memberPala Radio: September 10, “I received the email and in the process so far responding to the survey. Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions.” 
No Questionnaire received. 
Lou Riddle,
construction and Lilac Hills Ranch supporter (pages 39 and 42): No response to multiple emails.

2 year term, 1 seat, 2 candidates:
Larissa Anderson, Chief Notion Commotionist at WhatNext, DD campaign manager in 2016: Multiple emails received and a statement to share with the voters but Larissa refused to answer the Questionnaire. Here are Larissa Anderson’s emails and statement for your review.
Dr. Sylvia Tucker, Ed.D., farmer, retired educator: Questionnaire is here for your review.

1 seat not up for election in 2018:
Dick Olson, incumbent.

Candidate info: SDVote.com

We hope you find this information useful.  Here is also information on the growing coalition Opposing Measure EE

Thank you!

The Volunteers at SaveGirdValley.com

BUSD and safety?

BUSD says safety is important but….

  1. BUSD proposes moving its high school students from a moderate wildfire zone in Bonsall to a very high wildfire zone in Fallbrook and then offered only one entrance/exit in the proposed design plan The community revolted and stated that, if any school were built anywhere in North County San Diego, two exits was a non negotiable. SaveGirdValley.com delivered a written opinion from a Fire Chief on the subject and BUSD approached the Fallbrook Fire Chief and  he publicly announce that he had never sent a letter advocating for two exits. To be clear, the letter is by retired Ventura County Fire Chief Roper and you can read it here.
  2. BUSD says it cares about the children but it had never developed school shooting or fire safety evacuation plans for any of its campuses. The community continues to push BUSD to address this deficiency, District-wide, via the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) process for a massive 1,500-student school proposed for Fallbrook’s Gird Valley, 1.1 miles from the northernmost edge of the school district. This is the sixth time, a high school has been proposed for this inconvenient site (it has lost five times at the ballot box). 
  3. Traffic, parking and car accidents are all issues, District-wide, at BUSD and it is estimated that its proposed high school for Fallbrook’s Gird Valley will result in an unacceptable 73% increase in traffic. But BUSD has not implemented a carpool or any sort of traffic/parking/accident reduction program. A carpool app program is a natural fit for BUSD which claims to run a high-tech high located in what was lauded as a “state-of-the-art high school” when it opened in the Fall of 2016. In 2017, volunteers from SaveGirdValley.com researched a dozen carpool apps, recommended one and offered $1,000 toward the program. In July 2018, a second attempt was made to trigger follow up to carpooling concept at BUSD. As of September 25, 2018, BUSD has not replied. 
  4. BUSD has been criticized at its Board meeting on safety deficiencies in its parking lot design for its proposed high school. 
  5. BUSD built at least one school without fire sprinklers and ignored maintenance needs including those for “fire and life safety”. In 2016, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association criticized BUSD, noting: “SDCTA believes the District has NOT included projects in its bond program to address some major maintenance needs, particularly those regarding fire and life safety. For example, we noted that Bonsall West Elementary does not have a sprinkler system and there are numerous electrical and plumbing deficiencies at each of the existing campuses.” In response to this criticism, BUSD set up a stunningly ineffective $50,000/year maintenance fund even as its deferred maintenance backlog grew into the millions. It is unclear if these fire and life safety deficiencies have ever been addressed. 

BUSD should be a good neighbor and implement plans to reduce traffic, parking and accidents District-wide.

BUSD should address all life and safety deficiencies in its buildings as part of its regular maintenance schedule.

BUSD should develop evacuation plans in case of emergencies and support two entrances exits at any campus in North San Diego County. 

When BUSD says it cares about student safety, please ask them specifically about these issues.

We look forward to reading their responses.

Thank you.

The Volunteers at SaveGirdValley.com



Fallbrook Community Planning Group (FCPG) comments on proposed high school in Gird Valley

MAR 20, 2018 Fallbrook Community Planning Group (FCPG) comments on proposed high school in Gird Valley

Gird Valley neighbors attended the Fallbrook Community Planning Group’s March meeting (Agenda, Item 5 ) to engage in discussion on the Draft EIR for Bonsall Unified School District’s proposal to build a 1,500-student high school in Gird Valley in Fallbrook. Thank you to those who spoke and shared concerns regarding the very large project creating a massive increase in traffic, parking problems and accidents while pointing out that the proposed site is not centrally located within the Bonsall Unified School District.

Planning Committee Vice-Chairman Jack Wood noted that endangered species were found on the property, detailed how the property had been declared surplus and was to be sold when Fallbrook High School owned it, that it had been declared not suitable for a high school. He noted that the FCPG requires that we “don’t disrupt the natural terrain of the land, this is absolutely contrary to that.” Commenting on  the undulation of the property, he questioned the volume of cubic yards of land that would have to be removed. He had concerns about the “undulation of that property, the inadequacy of the parking,” noting that the school was being built to a 1,500 student population. “That location would clearly disrupt Gird Valley and would create traffic that is far in excess of what you have there today.” “There are a number of reasons why this property is not suitable for a school. This would create, with the current zoning, 2-acre lots, this would create about 17 to 18 houses on that particular property and that would be my recommendation. So based on the interest of saving the Gird Valley from the unwanted traffic and congestion, I strongly oppose the development of a high school on this location.”

Planning Committee Chairman Jim Russell stated,I think a major egregious error in this EIR is the fact that the property is not centrally located where a high school should be so folks can feed in from all around. This is the very extreme edge of the school district,” “on the very extreme edge, the northern edge, of the district and in my opinion is not an appropriate place for a high school.” Russell stated BUSD understated parking needs for students, staff, “they will have parking for less than 10% of the student body.” “I think [this development] would totally devastate Gird Valley with all the students trying to park out on Gird Road and I seriously question the logic of the folks who put those numbers in the EIR and think that is an appropriate thing to do.”

Comments submitted re: Draft EIR for BUSD school proposal

MAR 22, 2018 Comments submitted re: Draft EIR for BUSD school proposal

Whew! We did it! Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) set a short 45-day public comment period on its proposal to build a 1,500 high school in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley.

Lots of praise for the staff at environmental attorney Kevin Johnson’s office. They did an amazing job. A Big Thank You to everyone who shared information and supported the work on these comments!  You’ll want to read them!

Highlights include:

The proposed high school will generate an additional 2,700 vehicle trips per day, a whopping 73% increase in traffic in Gird Valley.  Gird Road currently experiences accident rates far higher than the statewide average of 1.32 per million vehicle miles: 2.36 from the 76 to south of Oak Cliff Drive and 1.90 to the north of Oak Cliff Drive to Reche Road. Accidents will increase along with the additional traffic. School-related traffic, accidents and parking problems are district wide problem yet BUSD has made no effort to establish a carpool program to address this huge negative.

Before beginning its required biological assessment of the flora and fauna on the proposed site, BUSD used 600 goats (with sheepdogs), plus mechanical methods, to clear its 50 acres on Gird Road. It also strung barbed wire fencing around the site, a barrier to wildlife movement. In spite of this effort to denude and isolate the property, endangered species were found on the site (burrowing owl burrows, nesting least Bell’s vireo, kangaroo rats, pocket mice) and a mountain lion was recently spotted nearby. The property has over 16 acres of federally-designated critical habitat for the arroyo toad but BUSD’s Draft EIR ignored the fact that a federal biologist had found an arroyo toad on adjacent land.

Per the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services’ Know Your Hazards mapping tool, Gird Road is in a VERY HIGH WILDFIRE HAZARD LEVEL zone (7350 W. Lilac Road, where the current BUSD high school is located, is rated MODERATE) and Gird Valley has been evacuated twice in the last decade. Fires in 2017 ran just south of the proposed school property on Gird Road yet BUSD includes only one entrance/exit in its proposed high school design. Please read the letter from the Fire Chief on why this is a terrible idea and why this huge project must have at least two entrances/exits! School children’s safety is non-negotiable!

Fallbrook Community Planning Group (FCPG) commented on the Draft EIR after discussing it at a public meeting on March 19 (see transcribed comments below in March 20 posting) where Vice Chair Jack Wood stated,  “There are a number of reasons why this property is not suitable for a school.I strongly oppose the development of a high school on this location.” Chairman Jim Russell noted BUSD greatly understated the parking needs, stating, They will have parking for less than 10% of the student body… I think [this development] would totally devastate Gird Valley with all the students trying to park out on Gird Road and I seriously question the logic of the folks who put those numbers in the EIR and think that is an appropriate thing to do.” … I think a major egregious error in this EIR is the fact that the property is not centrally located where a high school should be so folks can feed in from all around. This is the very extreme edge of the school district,” “on the very extreme edge, the northern edge, of the district and in my opinion is not an appropriate place for a high school.”

You’ll want to know more so read all about it!

Endangered Habitats League (EHL) submits comments 

MAR 26, 2018 Endangered Habitats League (EHL) submits comments 

Endangered Habitats League (EHL) submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Bonsall Unified School District’s proposal for a huge 1,500-student school north of the 76, at the southern end of Gird Valley.

EHL stated:

“…the consulting biologist did not conduct protocol level surveys as requested by USFWS/CDFW for the arroyo toad or focused/protocol level surveys for gnatcatchers.”

…the proposed development is in conflict with San Diego County’s Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) and its San Luis Rey River Park Plan.

The DEIR may have used an improper baseline in connection with biological impacts. It is our understanding that before biological surveys were conducted, the district cleared the property by using goats which likely removed sensitive plant species and impacted sensitive animal habitat. This issue should be candidly addressed in the DEIR and biological reports and the appropriate baseline should be employed. The project site’s pre-clearing status should have been used to assess biological impacts and mitigation and avoidance strategies. An applicant cannot avoid the environmental review process by preemptively clearing the property of all environmental sensitivity.” 

Read all the comments here!